Feb. 7, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson met with members of the media on Wednesday, Feb. 7, to discuss the upcoming game against Illinois.
On fixing the rebounding:
"I think D.J. (White) has to stay aggressive when he gets into foul trouble. I think he sat down the last few minutes of the second half. He has kind of been like that all year, though. We just try to get him to stay aggressive. The guards, too, Rod (Wilmont) has had a tremendous year rebounding the ball. But when you look at it, he has rebounded the ball at home really well. We have to get him and all our guys into the habit of going to the rim. It's something that we emphasize daily, but in a game like the other night, you see it just hasn't become a habit yet. D.J. is the key though. D.J. getting in foul trouble, and Iowa playing that small lineup, when they play Tyler Smith at the four position, they have all of our big guys spread out. We really had some guys who didn't play well and there is no excuse for it. I don't think that will be an issue. Just like after the Illinois game, I knew that we would bounce back. And just like after this game, we will bounce back again."
On what to do differently against Illinois:
"I think we do have to attack them differently, we just have to attack them. Last game, if you look at that tape, we just didn't attack. We walked the ball up the court, and that was an emphasis in practice after that. If you look at the Iowa game, offensively we were good. If you score 75 points, you would think we would win that game. If you watch the tape of that game, we had a lot of good defensive possessions that wound up with them shooting free throws. It is frustrating to play good defense and then the possession ends in free throws. It's something we just have to keep working at. Some of it is out of our control. You want your team to be aggressive and you want them to contest shots. There is an age-old rule in basketball: you don't foul the shooter. And looking back, there are certain things out of your control."
On having a week off and the focus of it:
"The only other that we had that would have been a bye week for us was before we played Connecticut. That would have been a bye week, but we had a non-conference game plugged in there, then two days later we had to go to Illinois. This is really the last break we have until the season ends. It's been a good week. We had a great practice yesterday. For the first time all year, we were able to extensively watch tape. We did that on Monday. And we just talked about situations. Our kids play hard. We made a run on Iowa, they come back and hit some 3s, then we tied it up at halftime. Coming out of halftime, we go up by four. (Adam) Haluska made some tough shots. Then there was a real critical possession there, I think we were up one, and he is a about 24 feet out, Rod and A.J. (Ratliff) contest the shot but he winds up with three free throws. There were so many possessions like that. On a day where you get three rebounds and six points out of D.J., we just can't have possessions like that. One possession can be critical on the road, and that was an important possession for them. In the big picture, maybe not, but in terms of momentum and building runs, he took that shot fairly late in the shot clock and we were doing a great job defensively. And again, the whistle blows, and he is at the free-throw line scoring points. Not against our defense, but they are scoring points from the free-throw line. We have been able to overcome that a lot, but couldn't overcome that the other day. But still they go up eight, our kids never stopped clawing and fighting, and with 19 seconds to go, it's a two-point game. We fought and clawed, but just didn't do a good enough job on the boards and we didn't keep them off of the free-throw line. Those are the two main things that stand out to me."
On what makes a great practice:
"Just being good in the areas we emphasize. We worked hard yesterday on defending throughout a possession without fouling. Don't put it in someone else's hands. Sometimes that is an arbitrary decision, and when you are on the road, you don't get the benefit of the doubt of an arbitrary decision. I had an assistant coach on the baseline, I was out front, and we called everything. We put 30 seconds on the shot clock, which is really too long. How many times do you defend for 30 seconds? Most teams shoot before the 10-second mark. We were really good at that yesterday. There is a fine line between being aggressive and being overly aggressive. In my opinion, I would rather have my team be overly aggressive then being aggressive. Sometimes you have bad luck with that stuff. If you look at the final stats, they scored 81 points. We broke down our defensive possessions; the only thing that bothered me on our defensive possessions was I thought their bigs were really good at crashing the boards. Our base defense was good, but defense culminates with a defensive rebound. But this time of the year, I refuse to think you can't get better. It's hard to keep improving this time of year. It's hard for any team. But you have to keep working at it. You have to keep plugging and keep emphasizing, keep holding kids accountable, and make sure that the practices are purposeful and they aren't going through the motions. That is why I thought yesterday was a great practice."
On what to do to get prepared for road games:
"We are working on situations. Battling adversity, I think that is something that you have to build up over time. A lot of the kids we have haven't won a whole lot on the road in their careers. You look at our preparation and how our kids are ready to play, and I am talking about the kids more than anything else. Look how we came out ready to play in the Iowa game. Then we had some things go against us. You are going to have things go against you, you just have to bow your neck and grit your teeth and get through it. That is going to happen on the road. Look at Wisconsin when they played here, look at all the teams we play at home. Some of them don't fight back as well as others. Wisconsin gets down 10 against us the other night, they had a lot of reasons to go away. But they bow their neck and came back and tied it up. That is the mark of a tough team, I think. Coaches have to be careful to not overreact to road losses. I don't. If you look around the country it's not like it is an isolated dilemma. I think North Carolina is pretty good. I think North Carolina is better than North Carolina State. So how did they lose at North Carolina State? That is something every coach has to face. I have faced it every year I have coached. I'll face it next year, I'll face it next year, I'll face it five or even 10 years from now. It's not being good enough to win on the road all the time, it's being tough enough to overcome adversity. That is a big key of winning on the road. Good teams will win at home, bad teams won't. Bad teams won't win anywhere. Good teams are going to win at home against other good teams. But to beat a good team on the road when both teams are good, where there's not much difference, it comes down to adversity and toughness. I got home Saturday night, it was amazing how many games that teams lose on the road. I was glad to see it. It is just something that you are going to have to face. I like the way our kids kept bouncing back, when you have something bad go against us, it is out of our control, let it go, don't repeat the mistake. We have a bunch of road games coming up and that is good for us. These are great opportunities for us and that is the way we will approach them. We have a big one Saturday, and that's the one that you focus on. You look down the road, we have some great opportunities to get better on the road as we go along here."
On the play of Errek Suhr:
"Errek Suhr was in the rotation early. Think about how many guards we have. We have six guards, five in the rotation and Errek. He was in the rotation for a while, then all of a sudden Joey Shaw started to play well. It's hard to take him out after his Ohio State and Purdue games. Look at Armon Bassett, look at A.J., who do you sit down? We have to find ways to get Errek Suhr in there because Errek may not have what some of the other guys have, but Errek does have a high tolerance for adversity. He just goes in and plays."
On the overall team play at this point in the season:
"Offensively, we can score the ball. We scored 75 points basically without D.J. We have to get back to crashing the boards better. That is something that you have to fight with a team that doesn't have it as a habit. We fight that every day. Rod is such a perimeter player, with whatever we are in, Rod is usually behind the 3-point line. When the ball goes up, he is going to have to crash from 20 feet, for instance. D.J. is the key for us, we only have one inside scorer. It's not a criticism, it is a reality for us. There are a lot of teams in our league that have multiple guys who can score around the basket. We are not set up that way. As we move along in the future, there are things we can do about that. We are what we are. We have to take the kids we have and get them to do things that are kind of outside their nature, like rebounding. If you look at D.J. in high school, I think he averaged nine rebounds a game his last year. He averaged four his freshman year. Sometimes he forgets that is a responsibility. For us, there are two or three guys that if they don't rebound for this team, we will struggle in that area. That is the great thing about practice, whenever we have struggled in a certain area, we have been able to go back to practice and get better at it and carry it on to the next game. That is a little big concerning because that is one of Illinois' strengths. Like every team, we all struggle in certain areas, we aren't perfect teams. If it was a perfect world North Carolina wouldn't lose at Virginia Tech and certainly wouldn't lose at State. We wouldn't lose certain games. To play on the road, I think your greatest attribute has to be maturity. You have to be a really mature team. Maturity is not relevant to age. Some of the most mature people I have ever been around in my life were 18 to 22 year olds. Some of the most immature people I have ever seen were 50 to 70. Age has nothing to do with maturity, it has to do with who you are inside. That is something that we have to keep working at. I told our kids I was disappointed with our rebounding, I was disappointed with our front-line play, but I wasn't disappointed with our effort. We kept battling and kept fighting, and had the thing cut to two. You think this is one of those games that would be a miracle if you win it, but I have seen miracles before."
On D.J. working against the double team:
"D.J. has been doubled since day one. I think it goes back to D.J.'s mentality when he gets in foul trouble. He gets on his heels sometimes. He has got to attack. When D.J. is on the balls of his feet and attacking, he never waits for the double team. He usually shoots the ball before the guard gets there; the other day he was waiting. Sometimes when something works against you, you have to give other team credit. You also have to ask, why did it work against you? Sometimes you have to attack the thing, rather than let it control you."
On the difference Brian Randle makes for Illinois
"They are better. He is a senior. He brings them great experience. I think he is a great rebounder, too. They are a much better team with him. He gives them good size. I think they are a terrific offensive rebounding team."
On Lance Stemler struggling right now:
"I think Lance had two wide open 3s in the first half I remember. I don't think anybody on our staff or on our team worries about Lance's effort. If you are a human being, you can put on a brave face and say all the right things, but deep down, Lance cares. If you don't care it doesn't bother you, but if you care and you invest in that, and it doesn't go the way you would like for it to go, it bothers you. Lance desperately wants to help this team. There is no one who works harder. We have a lot of guys who work hard in practice, but nobody works any harder than Lance. His shot is just not going in right now. Ultimately when things are going well in certain areas, it affects other areas. But over the course of November to March, it is going to happen."